It’ll take some time to get used to not seeing Joc Pederson or Kiké Hernández in the dugout at Dodger Stadium in 2021. Not only were both players incredibly fun to watch, but they also played a key role in the Dodgers’ system.
For the past few seasons, LA has truly bought into a win-by-committee approach. They’ve used the platoon arguably more than any other team during that time period, and that was thanks, in part, to both Joc and Kiké. Both players sacrificed pride and playing time in order to make it work, but their willingness to do so culminated in a World Series title this past season.
With both players moving on to different teams heading into 2021, the Dodgers may have to alter their platoon approach. There is still plenty of depth within the organization, but they have yet to prove it at the big league level. They do still have Chris Taylor, who looks to be the perfect candidate to fill the super-utility role, and he may be one of the most important Dodgers this season. Even so, one player is not much of a safety net. Ultimately, the playing style for the club may come down to how a few other players perform.
If there were ever a need for Gavin Lux to have a breakout season, 2021 would be it. Many predicted that the 23-year-old infielder would take the reigns at second base in 2020, but a number of issues kept him off the roster altogether for most of the year.
In his place, the Dodgers started Kiké Hernández at second for 30 of the 60 regular-season games. With Hernández now a member of the Boston Red Sox, the Dodgers will need to replace his production at second internally. Lux will get the first opportunity, but should he struggle to produce yet again, the team may be forced to use Chris Taylor there more often than they would like. And as the only other outfielder projected to be on the roster outside of Betts, Bellinger, and Pollock, this severely handicaps any platoon options the Dodgers may be considering.
One way or another, Lux will be key to the Dodgers’ success this season.
Following the departure from Hernández, McKinstry is the most likely option to replace him on the 26-man roster, given his ability to play multiple positions and the success he showed early last season during spring training. Assuming that he gets a roster spot, it would still take time for him to earn enough trust to regularly fill in for any regulars.
Zach McKinstry is almost exclusively an infielder, but he can play any of the outfield positions in a pinch if needed. Assuming that he has another impressive spring, he might be able to compete for the second base job if Lux struggles.
Assuming everything goes according to plan, the Dodgers could very well continue to platoon to a certain extent next season, but not to the extent that they did in, let’s say, 2018 for example. In fact, Chris Taylor has already acknowledged that he’s preparing to play all over the field once again. This would be the best-case scenario, but there is much less room for error after their offseason losses.
Spring Training is set to kick-off on February 18th with the first full-squad workout scheduled for February 23rd, so we are just a few short days away from finding out how this year’s squad will approach things.